Freedom from Condemnation

by Renee Scott

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NLT)

I am free from the thought that everything bad happening in my life is from God.  The mindset that God is only out to “get” you is simply not true.  If it were, why does Paul share in Romans 8:28 that ALL things work for the good of those who love Him?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (KJV)

God lovers, take joy!  This passage of scripture is one of hope and confidence.  It doesn’t mean that as a believer, we will be excluded from hardships, but it does however give the promise of a greater cause for our struggles.   Trials will come to our lives.  Situations may arise that are so painful; we don’t understand how a loving Savior could allow them to happen.  We may even wonder if it’s punishment for wrong deeds.

For the longest time I feared the challenges and obstacles in my life were the result of sin and God was out to penalize me.  I deserved discipline and He was there to make sure it was carried out.  Fortunately through my study of God’s word, I realized my mindset was far away from God’s desire. 

We are created to be in relationship with God.  Relationship comes through experience and knowledge of His ability.

We weren’t birthed to have Him punish us for every little thing we do wrong.  He is a God of grace (unmerited divine assistance) and mercy (forbearance shown to an offender).   Those “bad” things happening in our lives are meant to grow our faith.  James even starts his first chapter by telling us to take joy in our tests.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Start your weekend by knowing that God is so in love with you.  He sacrificed His son for you.  He knows your pain and sees your frustration.  He’s not mad with you; just ready to take you to another level of knowing Him.  Get ready to understand Him in a greater and deeper way.  The best is yet to come!

 

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, Double Portion Inspiration, where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

 

Freedom from Control

by Kim Wiezycki

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)

When I was a fairly new believer in Christ and the Bible, I was going through a very difficult time with the health of my youngest son, Luke, who was then about 2 years old. I am grateful to say that his health is fine now, although if I had a nickel for every time someone showed their shock at his size for his age, I’d be filthy rich! 

My church friends came to the rescue and pointed me in the right direction using patience, love and wisdom. I was at the Ladies’ Retreat that summer of 2004 and obsessing with how many calories my son was eating (or not eating) while I was away. Was Larry (my husband) remembering to keep the journal? Did he remember to add the extra calorie mix? Did Luke keep his meals down? How many bites did he take? Was he constipated again today? What if we had to put a feeding tube in him? What if his brain didn’t develop right? 

I was on the phone almost every hour of the retreat checking on his eating patterns and driving my husband and everyone around me crazy. 

During “sister room” time, when asked to share a little about myself, I immediately told the girls about my son’s reflux, short-stature, and failure-to-thrive status that had me worried beyond description. They could see right away that I was held in bondage by this issue and had been for a long time. They knew I needed to lean on the One who could help me most, our Lord. One of them graciously suggested that I attend the break-out session on deliverance that was being held the next day. Being a fairly new Christian, and not even knowing what ‘deliverance’ meant, upon their INSISTENCE, I changed my plan for the day, and attended that breakout session led by Kristin Bonham. 

During this breakout session, I was on the edge of my seat as Kristin explained the Biblical topics of demonic strongholds and deliverance. In non-Christianese, that simply means FREEDOM. After sharing scripture with us on what God says about truth, bondage, evil spirits, and freedom, she had us pray silently over a list of possible ways we may be in bondage. We were supposed to clear our heads and listen to God speak to our hearts. If you know me, you know I’m a talker. Listening to God is still a challenge for me! As I scanned the list, I chose the word ‘worry’ and began praying for God to take away my worry over my son’s illness. I began a one sided conversation with God about my issues with worry because I was sure that was my problem. Then, after trying to stay silent for a few moments and give God a chance to speak, I heard in my heart, “CONTROL.” What? I don’t have a control problem! I have a worry problem. “No,” God assured me, “You have a control problem. I created Luke. Surrender him to Me.” I began to giggle, because as a fairly new believer, hearing God’s voice in my heart was a new experience. When I’m nervous, I tend to laugh inappropriately, and that I did! 

The woman sitting next to me thought I was crying. She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Don’t WORRY– God is in CONTROL.” I almost burst out laughing! I was getting confirmation that God wanted me to realize that HE was in control of my son and I couldn’t do any more than I already was to fix him, except to trust in God and surrender to His healing ways for both Luke’s body and my mental state. 

The last part of the session was prayer and the most miraculous thing happened. I literally felt vibrations lift up and out of me and a very real weight came off my shoulders. I would have been the first person, having grown up agnostic, to tell you that experiences like that are all made up or a psychological response to something you wish to happen. But I KNOW what I KNOW and I KNOW that God lifted that stronghold off of me that day to help me build my faith and trust in Him. And it did. 

I can sing praises now for Luke’s health being fine, and even if he is small, he is how God made him. I realize now that even if his medical problems had been more severe, I learned that day to be free of the obsession of trying to control circumstances that are beyond my control. Now when I tend to worry or fret about something, I wonder if it’s really just me trying to control something that God wants me to let be and surrender to Him. I now practice listening and following His leading or avoiding situations that I know could lead me astray. Every day is a journey and the freedom to walk with God is the greatest adventure. 

 

Kim has been married to Larry Wiezycki for 17 years and they have two boys, ages 12 and 10. When Kim isn’t in church, she can be found teaching curly girls how to take care of their hair, spending way too much time on Facebook or reading real books, and running a half marathon here and there.

Freedom in Forgiveness

by Dawn Smiling

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:  compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.  Never be without it.” Colossians 3:12-14 (Message)

Do you ever watch children have a disagreement?   It can seem so terrible with screaming and crying one minute.  But ten minutes later, it appears all is forgiven and they are playing together like nothing ever happened.  Their attention span has no time to dwell on old business. Onto the business at hand, more play time.  As we get older, we don’t seem to forget as quickly.  We tend to hold onto grudges a little longer than we should.  We tend to admonish our brother or sister to forgive that family member, co-worker, or loved one, until God brings the challenge into your life and the burden of forgiving now rests on you.

I was faced with a trial that forced me to make a choice.  Do I forgive the situation that was so piercing to the soul, or do I hold out because I was right and the other person was wrong.  Would you withhold forgiveness because you are in the right?  I was forced to go into deep prayer. When the question of forgiveness strikes your life, and God is bringing the challenge to your doorstep. How do you embrace the hurt, pain, or disappointment that comes along with the choice to forgive?  Does forgiveness apply to others, but not your stuff?

Freedom of forgiveness enables us to restore our brother or sister to Christ in love.  Matthew 18:15-17 encourages us to restore in love in order for reconciliation to abound. Forgiveness prevents our prayers from being hindered.   Mark 11:25 teaches us to forgive so that our Father in heaven may forgive you of your sins.  How should we expect God to forgive us, if we are not willing to let it go?  In order to have a clear pathway to the Father, our heart must be free of the debris that is holding judgment against a brother or sister.  There is nothing worse than someone telling you they remember something you said 20 years ago, and it really hurt their feelings.  This means they carried this burden around for a very long time where bitterness, anger and pain took root.  Forgiveness allows the Holy Spirit to flow freely through you.  Ephesians 4:30-32 teaches us not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  We are to let go of the anger, slander and every form of malice.  Rather, we are encouraged to be compassionate, kind and forgiving of one another. 

My trials have taught me to be ready and stay ready to forgive.  As Jesus was on the cross with the two thieves, He said to the one who asked to be remembered, “This day, you shall be with me in paradise.” In spite of the excruciating pain Jesus was in, He forgave and took the thief home with him.  The more we forgive, the more people will go home with us to be with the Lord.  Yes, you will experience hurt in this life, but if you hold on to the wrong offenses that have been done to you, you will remain in bondage with a spirit that cannot be used by God.  But the freedom in forgiveness releases power, strength, and an open door for God to extend unlimited grace over your life. 

When I forgave the biggest challenge of my life, I was free to see heaven through new eyes.  I was free to say, “Satan get behind me, for I will see God!”  It may seem that forgiveness is to release the other party, but truly forgiveness is to release you.  Don’t miss it.  It is an awesome feeling, and God will be well pleased.  And after you forgive, wear love. 

 

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.

 

You Thrill Me, Lord

by Debbie Altman

I’ve been a Christian for 37 years now, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express enough, how thankful I am to Jesus for who He is, and for the life He offers us.

Like all of us, I have a little bit of junk in my trunk!   Given up for adoption at birth, then alcoholism and divorce in my family.  That sums up the basics without too much gore!  I grew up with a taste of God from Catholic church on Easter and Christmas.  I had never been a REALLY bad girl, at least in all the outward appearances. But like all of us, there was a big ache, a knowledge of my true self that made me dissatisfied, aware of my own inward sin, and hungry for something more.  When I was introduced to a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus just after high school, my whole world opened up!  Boy, did I get MORE!

I love the Psalms because the writer is so brutally honest about the tough stuff of life, yet he is always trying to express how amazing God is and how much he wants to praise Him!  I can relate!  I have wallowed with David in “the pits,” but in spite of that, (and sometimes because of it…), I identify with how much he loves and appreciates God, and wants to shout it from the mountaintops!

“You thrill me Lord with all you have done for me!”  Psalm 92:4

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands.  Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed….Light shines in the darkness for the godly.  They are generous, compassionate and righteous.  Such people will not be overcome by evil.  Those who are righteous will be long remembered.  They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them…Their good deeds will be remembered forever.  They will have influence and honor. “  Psalm 112

Serving and obeying God brings such tremendous benefit to our lives!  Seeking after God and His ways brings light to our darkness, and the healing passes to the lives of our children and grandchildren, and the world around us!  He brings us out of brokenness and obscurity to a place of influence and honor!  I want to shout it from the rooftop!  The Lord is good!!!   And even through the hard times, He brings blessing and honor on a life lived for Him! 

I know that the struggles in life can beat us down and tempt us to doubt God.  But I plead with you today, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time, you will reap a harvest.”  (Galatians 6:9) Stay the course with God.  Do not turn to the right or to the left.   Keep the end in mind!  The rewards for your life are too many to count!

Lord Jesus, I cry out to You today for anyone reading this who feels weary, or who is fighting the pull to wander away from You.  Wrap Your big arms around them and hold them close and whisper in their ear how much You have in store for them.  Give them the strength, courage and vision today to go on with You to the end. Provide for them and show them Your tender goodness.    In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.

 

That was Then, This is Now

by Terri Blanchard

Tuesday’s blog described what was going on in my life 13 years ago. Today blog is more about where I am today. While I was in a very dark place back then, I can honestly say that is not the case today. Now there is light and life in my life. My life has changed because of what God has done. Psalm 103 describes just a few of those reasons.

(1) Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
(2) Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

Today, I can praise the Lord with my whole heart because of all the good things He did for me then and what He continues to do now.

(3) He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

Actually, I could stop here because that alone is more than I could ever ask for. Not only did God forgive me for the years of mistakes, poor choices and bad decisions I made (and still make!), He has healed me and continues to heal me physically, mentally and spiritually. But wait, there is more!

(4) He redeems my life from the pit
(my deep dark pit of despair – see Tuesday’s blog)
and crowns me with love and compassion,
(5) He satisfies my desires with good things
so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(6) The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
(8) The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
(9) He will not always accuse,
nor will He harbor His anger forever;
(10) He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
(11) For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
(12) For as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(13) As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him…
(17) From everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,
and His righteousness with their children’s children.

What about you? Can you praise Him for any of the things in Psalm 103 that He has done for you?  What is He doing in your life now? Why not stop and take a minute to thank Him for all He’s done?

 

Terri Owens Blanchard is very happily married to John Blanchard. She is also a mother, a Mimi to her granddaughter, a Mary Kay Consultant, and a small group leader for the Military Wives group. She loves to shop, travel, and shop as she travels! She also enjoys spending time with family, friends and her crazy pets. She can be reached at t.blanchard1@yahoo.com